Campus Ministries, Directors, Bylaws, and Resolutions

by Martin R. Noland, July 7, 2012

Here is the question:  “Can the powers of LCMS district Board of Directors be limited by conventions, bylaws, or resolutions?”  What do you think?

The month of June found myself and my family on a road trip to Colorado and California, to visit my parents and in-laws in those states, to visit siblings, nieces, and nephews, old friends and new friends, my home and vicarage congregations, and to let my kids experience some of the natural wonders of the Western states.

On more than one occasion, the topic of “University Lutheran Chapel of Minneapolis” was raised by relatives and friends.  Questions like “How could they do this to a thriving ministry?” and “Why?” and “How can we prevent the same thing from happening here?” were common.

When I returned to Indiana, I headed straight to Fort Wayne for its triennial District Convention.  On the agenda was Resolution 2-03 “To Affirm Word and Sacrament Campus Ministry in the Indiana District.”  It made mention of the “controversy [over campus ministry]. . . in other Districts – Minnesota South and Pacific Southwest.”  The properties of potential concern in Indiana District are the campus ministries at Indiana University – Bloomington and Purdue University – West Lafayette.  The final resolved in 2-03 was amended to read “we urge the [Indiana District] Board of Directors to bring any proposed sale of District owned, being utilized, campus ministry property to the entire District in convention for input, advice, direction, and approval.”

During the debate pertaining to Resolution 2-03, at least one speaker argued against any restriction to the powers of district Board of Directors to buy, sell, or encumber real estate and personal property.  One speaker argued that restricting Board of Directors in this way was “unconstitutional” or “illegal.”  Their argument was, apparently, that once you elected a Board of Directors they can do whatever they please until the next election.

There was not a word from these particular speakers about directors obeying church bylaws, being servants of the church, and being subservient to the convention.  I wanted to comment about how officers and directors should always serve the church in these ways, but a call was made for an official opinion from the District Commission on Constitutional Matters.  If my memory is correct, the district official opined that the convention could not mandate a restriction on the disposal of property, but it could “urge” a restriction, and so that is the language that was used by the convention.

That brings me to the question I posed at the start:  “Can the powers of LCMS district Board of Directors be limited by conventions, bylaws, or resolutions?”  What do you think?  My opinion is as follows.

The powers of LCMS district Board of Directors are described in present bylaw 4.5.1, which states that such board “shall have such powers and duties as are accorded to it by the Constitution, Bylaws, Articles of Incorporation, resolutions, and policies of the Synod, as well as those of the district. . . .It shall be vested with the general management and supervision of the district’s business and legal affairs . . . the board shall be guided generally by the functions of the Board of Directors of the Synod as defined in Bylaws 3.3.5ff as these apply to districts.” (2010 Handbook, p. 195).

There is a bit of a problem here.  There is no bylaw 3.3.5ff.  So how do we know the functions of the districts or their powers?  My best guess is that this refers to bylaw 3.3.4ff. and the numbers got mixed up at the last restructuring of synod.  The relevant section would then be bylaw 3.3.4.7 which reads “The [synodical] Board of Directors shall serve as the custodian of all the property of the Synod as defined in Bylaw 1.2.1 (q).  Except as otherwise provided in these Bylaws, it shall have the authority and responsibility with respect to the property of Synod as is generally vested in and imposed upon a board of directors of a corporation.  It shall, however, delegate to district board of directors the authority to buy, sell, and encumber real and personal property . . . in accord with general policies (which shall be applicable to all districts) established from time to time by itself or the Synod in convention.” (2010 Handbook, pp. 119-120).

The phrase “Except as otherwise provided in these Bylaws” is a key phrase in the present discussion.  It permits the synod in convention, through the adoption of pertinent bylaws, to restrict and limit the powers of the synodical Board of Directors in its role as custodian of synod’s property.  Examples of this sort of limitation are found in the cases of seminary and university Board of Regents, which state that these Board of Regents have “no power by itself to close the seminary [or institution] or to sell all or any part of the property which constitutes the main campus.” (Bylaws 3.10.4.5 (6) and 3.10.5.4 (6); 2010 Handbook, pp. 153 & 168).

If bylaw 3.3.4.7 is the model for the functions of District Board of Directors, then the phrase “Except as provided in these Bylaws” also applies to Districts.  In other words, according to LCMS bylaws, district conventions may restrict the powers of district Board of Directors “to close a campus ministry or to sell all or any part of the property which constitutes the main campus.”

A mere resolution may not do the job, but a district resolution with an amendment to district bylaws should do it in spades.  Even better for the purpose would be a synodical resolution that restricts all district Board of Directors from “closing a campus ministry or selling all or any part of the property which constitutes its main campus, without prior specific approval from its district convention.”

Here is the question:  “Can the powers of LCMS district Board of Directors be limited by synodical or district conventions, bylaws, or resolutions?”  I think so.  What do you think?


Comments

Campus Ministries, Directors, Bylaws, and Resolutions — 20 Comments

  1. Each district usually has its own set of bylaws or “regulations.” So the duties and limitations on each Board of Directors no doubt vary from district to district. Modifying bylaws ought to be undertaken with great care and caution. As Rev. Osburn correctly says, a mere resolution would be unconstitutional.

    The issue of campus ministry is one that deserves great attention–our students need all the faith-sustaining and faith-building assistance that we can give them. If anything, this is an area that ought be growing, not declining. The varous models of campus ministry need to be examined and studied, and, in my opinion, revised to reflect reality. A truly missional approach would take into account not only outreach, but also a faith-sustaining and edifying program. Most campus ministries will probably need a continuting subsidy-type arrangement–the districts would do well to examine their budget priorities, and make some substantive changes.

    More later–time for church….

  2. During the debate pertaining to Resolution 2-03, at least one speaker argued against any restriction to the powers of district Board of Directors to buy, sell, or encumber real estate and personal property. One speaker argued that restricting Board of Directors in this way was “unconstitutional” or “illegal.” Their argument was, apparently, that once you elected a Board of Directors they can do whatever they please until the next election.

    I was just reading something like this…

    http://www.geneveith.com/2012/06/21/church-constitutions-trumping-creeds/

    I guess the point is that bylaws/constitution should serve the church, not the other way around. Bylaws should help keep order and help people work together. They are not extensive enough to constrain those who do not wish to work together.

  3. It appears that the decisions and actions of the MNS Board of Directors has unfortunately, cast suspicion on the Boards of Directors of all our districts. I find this extremely unsettling, indeed disturbing, and frankly threatening to our “life together,” our koinonia.

    Altho I am usually in agreement with Dr. Noland in most matters, his above characterization of the speaker at the Indiana convention (“One speaker argued that restricting Board of Directors in this way was “unconstitutional” or “illegal.” Their argument was, apparently, that once you elected a Board of Directors they can do whatever they please until the next election”) is unfortunate, and a leap of reasoning that cannot be supported. Boards of Directors are limited by the bylaws of their district, and cannot simply “do as they please.” In one respect, the referenced speaker was at least partially correct–unless the bylaws are revised, a resolution limiting the Board is unconstitutional. On the other hand, this particular resolution merely “urged” the BOD to “bring any proposed sale of District owned, being utilized, campus ministry property to the entire District in convention for input, advice, direction, and approval.'” This is nothing more than a strongly worded request, and, if that resolution passed, the Indiana Board of Directors cannot do less than honor that request. The resulting process is cumbersome and potentially very time-consuming–which is perhaps the intent of the framers of the resolution. So be it: Boards have to take a long view–such is the nature of governance–tlhis resolution seems to have reinforced that concept.

    Perhaps the MNS Board has done us all a favor by raising our consciousness: Boards are accountable to the District, its constitution and bylaws, and (extremely importantly) to its conventions. Boards are accountable to scripture and the Lutheran confessions, ultimately to Justification, the Article by which the church (and its governing boards) stands or falls. We owe it to our district Boards of Directors to hold them so accountable.

  4. Back in the 1970’s President J.A.O Preus fired some
    District Presidents because they defied Synodical
    Convention Resolutions. However the Synod has no
    power to overthrow District resolutions unless they
    violate the Word of God or defy Synodical resolutions.

  5. “Can the powers of LCMS district Board of Directors be limited by synodical or district conventions, bylaws, or resolutions?”

    I don’t know and I’m to the point where I really don’t care. I have no faith in LCMS bylaws, conventions, resolutions, or district and synod directors. I know these are mechanisms we use to try to create order and get along together as a synod, but the longer the LCMS exists the less this seems to be working as the more it relies on the wisdom of the world rather than the word of the cross which is the power of God. One thing that limits the earthly power of leaders in the LCMS and gains them heavenly power is the cross. They need more of the cross and less concern for power and offerings and assets. Money = power to the world and unfortunately this notion tries to raise its head in the Church, but God will have none of it. The only power that matters is God’s power. He had the power to put his own Son to death on a cross for our sake. He had the power to bankrupt heaven for us. Jesus had the power to lay down his life for ours. Do we and our leaders give each other the power to lord it over one another and steal each other’s property? Sadly, yes, but only God has the power to forgive our poor pitiful sinful selves through the death of his one and only Son on the cross.

  6. LW :
    “Can the powers of LCMS district Board of Directors be limited by synodical or district conventions, bylaws, or resolutions?”
    I don’t know and I’m to the point where I really don’t care. I have no faith in LCMS bylaws, conventions, resolutions, or district and synod directors.

    I too, have lost faith in the LCMS. I have grown disgusted and weary of the LCMS proponents of Church Growth, TCN, Willow Creek, Saddleback, etc. If the Missionals — especially the district officials, were to spend a month or two listening to Fighting for the Faith, would they remain so eager to follow the advice of these organizations. Stop replacing our beloved LCMS theology with Calvinist and Evangelical prosperity gospel and then setting up roadblocks (bylaws, resolutions) to prevent the Confessionals from repairing the damage.

  7. @Lumpenkönig #7 The proponents you speak of have taken over in my neck of the woods of the LCMS. The Missionals would doutful listen to Fighting for the Faith to begin with, but if they did, what they heard they would consider to be foreign doctrine.

    The LCMS is in serious trouble because Lutheran pastors and congregations are seeking to be united and supported in a synod which is becoming increasingly ambivalent if not hostile to Lutheran doctrine. In many areas of our synod the majority of congregations and most of district leadership is little different than that of the churches of American Evangelicalism. It doesn’t make sense to be a Lutheran pastor, layman or congregation in an American Evangelical Synod. Why would Lutheran sheep live in an American Evangelical flock? Why would a Lutheran student attend an American Evangelical college or seminary? Why would a Lutheran join an American Evangelical Church? Our life is in Christ through Word and Sacraments, not through emotional law driven works righteousness.

    Any congregation, district, synod, convention, bylaw, resolution or leader which would seek to replace the authority of God and His perfect gift of the Gospel with anything or try to sell them for earthly mammon must be marked and avoided like the devil himself.

  8. @Lumpenkönig #7: “Stop replacing our beloved LCMS theology with Calvinist and Evangelical prosperity gospel and then setting up roadblocks (bylaws, resolutions) to prevent the Confessionals from repairing the damage.”

    That reminds me — whatever did happen to the Koinonia project, which was supposed to get the synod churches and pastors back walking together on the confessional Lutheran path?!?

  9. @Carl Vehse #9
    From Northern Illinois District President Gilbert’s recent news letter,

    Synod President Matt Harrison has set up the Koinonia Project for that very purpose, to study the Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions together in prayerful dialog with each other. The NID is one of the first districts to do this, and I ask you to pray for it just like we pray in the hymn, “Give thy church, Lord, to see days of peace and unity. O Lord, have mercy.”

    http://www.ni.lcms.org/ClientData/1074/Assets/documents/president%20office/commentary/2012%20-%204%20-%20julyaugust%20-%20walking%20together.pdf

  10. What is church growth anyway? Does it refer to getting more people to confess the doctrine in the three creeds? Does it refer to getting more members into a particular congregation and have them give more money? Does it mean more total numbers of congregations and members added to the denomination? The fixation on numbers makes me a little uneasy. I remember that someone in the Old Testament was told not to take a census. What is the understanding of that situation? Are there any parallels, or am I confused? One pet peeve of mine is when an event is planned and not many sign up, so leaders want to cancel it because there aren’t enough people even when there isn’t much expense or even any expense. If you have a class that is really good, those who participate will give a good report and then others will come. Why do we focus incessantly on numbers? The message then becomes that whoever is already here is not good enough, but more of the same would be great. I guess I am just complaining and not really helping, but maybe someone else can see what I mean and clarify for me.

  11. @Mrs. Hume #11
    “What is church growth anyway?”

    CG is simply growing the church, which, according to its proponents, gurus, and pitchmen, is done by sociological and scientific methods. Lost in the dust are the Means of Grace by which the Church is not only grown, but sustained. The CG has truncated the focus of the Great Commission to making NEW disciples only, while taking for granted (at best), or ignoring (at worst) the present disciples. Any Board of Directors which has made the numerical growth of the church its goal or ends, has set itself up for failure. Nowhere in the LCMS constitution can such a concept be found.

  12. “Another major duty of a Synod that wants to be and remain an Evangelical Lutheran Synod is that it not seek its own glory, but only the glory of God, being intent not so much on its own growth, but rather on the growth of Christ’s kingdom and the salvation of souls. You see, dear brethren, we are assembled here not for our own sake. We are in the faith, and by this faith we hope to be saved! But there are still many millions who have no faith! This is why we are here—so that we might bring salvation to as many people as we possibly can, so that the sad situation in Christendom and the corruption of the poor, blind heathen might be remedied. Only for this reason does our gracious God allow Christians to live on earth, that they might bring others to the saving faith. Otherwise God would immediately take a Christian to heaven as soon as he is converted.”  [emphasis mine]

    CFW Walther
    Essays for the Church
    CPH: 1992
    II:262

  13. So are church growth advocates obsessed with teaching doctrine? If so, what doctrine? Small catechism? Creeds? what? I mean, how do they count a person as part of the growth? Attendance? donations? Going through confirmation classes? What is the metric?

  14. @Mrs. Hume #14

    I don’t know but I’m guessing there is no united “church growth” conspiracy.  I imagine every congregation is different and broad assumptions might not be useful.  Church growth seems to include such simple things as shoveling the parking lot and keeping the restrooms clean.

  15. Mrs. Hume :So are church growth advocates obsessed with teaching doctrine? If so, what doctrine? Small catechism? Creeds? what? I mean, how do they count a person as part of the growth? Attendance? donations? Going through confirmation classes? What is the metric?

    http://www.confessionallutherans.org/papers/klemet.html

    See also: Marquart, Kurt. “‘Church Growth’ as Mission Paradigm: A Confessional Lutheran Assessment.” Houston, Texas: Our Savior Lutheran Church, 1994. This paper is also available in “Church and Ministry Today, Three Confessional Essays” published by Luther Academy, 2001.

    Finally, Zwonitzer, Rodney E., “Testing the Claims of Church Growth,” CPH, 2002

  16. “I don’t think there’s anything intrinsically wrong with the church-growth principles we’ve developed, or the evangelistic techniques we’re using. Yet somehow, they don’t seem to work.”

    C. Peter Wagner, Christianity Today, quoted by the LCMS Church Growth Study Committee, 2001., “For the Sake of Christ’s Commission,” p. 4

  17. @Win #4

    Dear Win,

    I sincerely apologize to you and to the speaker (or speakers, plural) mentioned, if I misrepresented their position or what they said. This was not my intent. I did not take notes during that debate, and when I wrote the column above was working with a week’s lapse in memory.

    Maybe I should not have referenced a speaker’s comments. If that was offensive, I will have Norm delete it. Just let me know which part is offensive, and I will be happy to do that.

    I also did not intend to disparage Board of Directors in general. Certainly not. They bring order out of chaos, more than most people know! They are certainly a gift to the church, when they function correctly, which they do most of the time.

    My concern comes not just from this particular incident.

    I know too many LCMS officers and boards who have the attitude that, “Yes, we have to obey the civil law, but we can disregard the church’s will once we obtain office.” So they disregard, or twist, or bypass resolutions passed by synod or district; and sometimes “run roughshod” over the bylaws and constitution too.

    I know that you, Win, don’t have this attitude, so I am “talking to the choir” with you.

    The ULC case was a perfect example of disregarding the church’s will, since the MNS Board of Directors ignored the resolution of the MNS District Pastor’s Conference pleading with the Board to wait to take action until the MNS convention.

    As long as the LCMS does not penalize church officers and boards when they disregard the church’s will–its will as expressed in synod or district or official conference resolutions, we will continue to have incidents like this.

    The MNS case has demonstrated that boards ignore resolutions from the church and do so with impunity. The MNS case seems to argue that the only reasonable solution is to make specific bylaws that limit what Board of Directors, or officers, can and can’t do. Restrictive bylaws (and their opposite) seems to be the only way for the church-at-large to effectively exercise its will. The problem with making specific restrictive bylaws is that they will grow exponentially, and I am not in favor of that.

    If we do nothing with the MNS case, then it will teach all other boards and officers that they can ignore resolutions with impunity. If you have a better, i.e., more practical answer to the problem of boards and officers ignoring resolutions, I am open to hearing it.

    I am not ready to give up on the democratic aspects of LCMS polity in the legislative sphere, namely, its synodical and district conventions, and congregational voter’s assemblies. Ever since I first wrote on the topic of LCMS polity, I have been an advocate for retaining and strengthening these democratic-legislative aspects, which are part of our birthright in the LCMS.

    Thanks for your insightful and level-headed comments, Win! I always look forward to them.

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  18. @Martin R. Noland #18

    No offense taken, and no reason to delete any of your post. Your explanation is more than adequate. My experience with boards is more limited–in fact, I have had more issues with staffs than with boards, but that is another issue entirely.

    ‘Nuff said.

    Win

  19. @Martin R. Noland #18

    And another thing. I don’t know what kind of governance model the MNS uses, let alone the models used by the Boards you described in this post. However, all too often, Boards follow the staff, rather than the other way around. Here’s one person’s take on the potential for such irresponsible behavior:

    http://pastoralmeanderings.blogspot.com/2012/07/policy-based-governance.html

    On paper, Policy-based governance seems to look good. In reality, it takes a lot of discipline and commitment for it to function as designed by Carver. Whether the MNS Board of Directors was following its staff or leading the way, the results of its actions re: ULC do not speak well for it. One thing for sure–policy-based-governance has no place in the congregation. Sadly, TCN pushes it.

  20. @Mrs. Hume #11

    Dear Mrs. Hume, et. al..

    “What is church growth anyway?” Excellent question, really! A good answer to that excellent question will shed a lot of light on what has been happening in the LCMS since the early 1980s, and why so many things have gone wrong–ULC chapel demolition being the latest case in point.

    First, some resources, so you know I am not just “shooting from the hip.” “Win” points us to some of these in his comments #16 and 17 above.

    Go to the LCMS website here: http://www.lcms.org/page.aspx?pid=683

    You can then download the PDF documents “Evangelism and Church Growth” (1987), “For the Sake of Christ’s Commission: The Report of the Church Growth Study Committee,” (2001), and “Review of ‘For the Sake of Christ’s Commission'” (2003).

    The 2003 review was initiated by President Kieschnick, who believed that the 2001 report, initiated by President Barry, was deficient in certain ways. You can read the 2003 review to see the differences for yourself. Paul McCain (Barry’s assistant at that time) might be able to give some insight, too, on why Kieschnick felt Barry’s report was deficient.

    The book with Marquart’s essay that “Win” mentions can be purchased here: http://www.shop.logia.org/Church-and-Ministry-Today-Three-Confessional-Essays-32.htm

    I believe that Zwonitzer’s book is out of print, but you can often get used copies via Amazon, com.

    Here then is my own analysis of “church growth.” “Church growth” is a philosophy of church practice based on the ethical philosophy that philosophers call “consequentialism.” Popularly, people call this idea “the end justifies the means,” which is not right, but close enough.

    “Consequentialism” as a modern ethical philosophy is anti-Christian in origin and practice. It has its modern origin in the father of liberal political thinking, John Stuart Mill. His version of “consequentialism” is known as “utilitarianism,” i.e., what is “right” is what makes the most people happy. It is no accident that “church growth” advocates and liberal political thinkers in our church have found common cause in organizations like “Jesus First”–they have common roots!

    “Consequentialism” in the form that we see it in “church growth” today teaches that what is “right” is whatever makes the most converts. All actions by the church, or by the believer, are judged only by how many converts they make. Traditional ethical criteria, such as the Ten Commandments, the Law of Love, or New Testament commands for church practices, are set aside if acting against them produces more converts. Lutherans have traditionally called similar ideas “fanaticism” and the people who adopt them “fanatics.”

    The alternative to “consequentialism” in the ethical sphere is “absolutism,” i.e., what is “right” and “wrong” is determined by God’s word and by God’s word alone. “Absolutism” in this form states that God has given many different absolute commands, pertaining to all sorts of situations and issues. All of these commands have to be given weight and credence in the church as it makes decisions and actions.

    The terminology of “consequentialism” and “absolutism” was developed by Elizabeth Anscombe in her 1958 essay “Modern Moral Philosophy.” She was the intellectual who gave C.S. Lewis a real trouncing in a debate at the Oxford Socratic Club, but she was herself an avowed “absolutist” in ethics and a Roman Catholic in her religion.

    As applied to the ULC chapel decision, this sort of “church growth” thinking may not have played a role. I don’t know. I wasn’t part of those discussions, so I can’t say. But the published plan for MNS Campus Ministry did argue that the sale of ULC property would produce more ministries and thus implied more converts. They intentionally ignored the fact that their action seriously hurt the ULC congregation, and its pastor, and was a violation of the “law of love,” as I discussed previously here at BJS.

    You can see, then, the results of “consequentialism” in the LCMS. Everything is permitted, everything is “right,” so long as it makes more “converts.” Converts are defined as more warm bodies on chairs in front of someone spouting off their personal religious opinions. Whether such warm bodies are really converts, or whether they really constitute a church, can’t be determined by such a definition or practice.

    On the other hand, from Lutheran teaching, I know that when I teach and preach God’s Word that something really happens and that faith may be formed or nurtured. But when I spout off my own religious opinions, nothing happens in the realm of the Holy Spirit, though I could gather quite a crowd, as many heretics, cult leaders, and sectarians still do today. I also know that when I follow the New Testament commands for church practice that I am governing the church as Jesus wants it to be governed.

    I am ready to defend that the proposition that “the consequentialist aspects of church growth philosophy are heretical and should not be tolerated in the Lutheran Church.” In place of “church growth,” we should follow traditional Lutheran missiological and evangelistic principles.

    If we do tolerate this church growth philosophy in the LCMS, our church will not survive as a Lutheran one for another generation. Why? Because, from a traditional ethical standpoint, the practitioners of the church growth philosophy are fanatics. They will do anything to anyone to accomplish their purposes, and they will feel completely justified in doing so, because they think they are making converts.

    This is the problem we have to deal with, and if we don’t deal with it, it will overcome what good is left in our church.

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

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